‘Occupy’

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Six months ago. I don’t really remember what life was like before six months ago. It was probably very dark and bleak and characterized by rich white men controlling politics from behind closed doors.

It still is–but this time we know who they are, and aren’t going to shut up until they are held accountable for their actions. Their actions that have constricted our mobility, made us wonder whether or not we can afford to have families, and privatized basic human rights to a point that worth and value is placed only on those who can afford to pay for every basic commodity–for those of us who don’t have that kind of money, we’re a mass of regular people trying to figure out how to navigate a world rigged for the one percent.

Six months ago we realized that we have each other. We aren’t alone.

On September 17th, I didn’t believe anything was going to actually happen–but because I’m young, hopeful, idealistic and a bit of an idiot, I still packed my flip cam and my cell phone and went to Wall Street–just to see if something would happen.

I wasn’t sure–and then I saw the tweet:

Today I told a cab driver I was here to Occupy Wall Street–he said “This ride is on me”

The rest was–and is, still in the making–history.

Happy anniversary, baby.

 

OSGATA v. Monsanto

In March 2011, Jim Gerritsen, president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) launched a lawsuit against Monsanto–almost one year later, 82 plaintiffs have joined his case representing over 300,000 other farmers, seed growers, and seed associations.

Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farms and the OSGATA, David Murphy from Food Democracy Now, and Corbin Laedlien of OWS Food Justice. Read my full article on the case, complete with interviews here.

 

Personal: Love and Revolutionary Ramblings

I am about to write very personal things.

Things about love. Things about the movement. Things about how sometimes, I really do not know how to tell the two apart.

I was just on the phone with my mother—I was wondering if I was a horrible person for not going to an action in solidarity with Occupy Oakland.

I told her that I was annoyed that it felt the same as everything, except no longer radical. It was the same dialogue, the same arrests, the same march routes, the same chants. It no longer feels like the movement is testing the system, or experimenting with what it can or cannot do, but adhering to the same formula, and regurgitating the same results.

I got off the phone to research a piece I’m writing, and respond to some e-mails. I sat in the kitchen, making tea and procrastinating.

Then, I heard it.

 

We are the 99%! We are the 99% Another world is possible! Another world is now!

 

It was electric, shaking the floor of my fourth floor apartment (okay, I still have to make dinner, so maybe my blood sugar is just low), but I felt the sudden rush of the need to put on my coat and boots, grab my keys, and run out the door, chasing the pure sound of the march to have That Feeling again.

Then I realized it: I was having That Feeling right there, in my kitchen. I started crying. For the first time in a while, I felt hopeful and imaginative against, rather than cynical and critical, if not depressed.

To tell the complete truth, I recently got out of a relationship—yes, it was related to #occupy. I met this person the night that the police descended, and the people were not supposed to win, but they did—my feelings about the power of the people and the power of love (or perhaps, believing in a form of sudden emotional intimacy and understanding) proceeded to mount, (perhaps dangerously) intertwined.

Both felt incredible.

I was there the night that Liberty Plaza got evicted. I was pushed against a wall and verbally harassed by a police officer and coughing out tear gas. Still, I believed in my heart that Liberty Plaza would be fine—it wasn’t until I saw the pictures on Twitter that I realized what had happened. It wasn’t until I read what happened to the People’s Library that I let myself break down in Foley Square at 3 in the morning.

I was alone that night. Very, very alone.

When Liberty Plaza got evicted, I was one of many who tried to remain hopeful about the occupation, but missed The Way Things Were dearly. Going back to Real Life and Writing About Things That Aren’t Occupy Or At Least In Some Way Radical Resistance felt disorienting and unsatisfying, and trying to justify the movement and maintain the faith that it would persist to people who were asking my “informed” opinion was even worse.

So, this relationship—which is insignificant compared to the movement, but still very much related to my experience—ended in January. Like the police eviction, it felt upsetting, shocking, and like something that I had had faith would continue got pulled from underneath me. I confronted my memories, forced myself to go to the place in Liberty Plaza where we met by chance.

In that moment, I realized that Liberty Plaza was Zuccotti Park again. It wasn’t the cradle of the revolution—it was back to a place that Wall Street traders took cigarette breaks. This felt a lot harder to accept.

There were still actions—but without the community of Zuccotti Park, many meetings feel more governed by internal politics than the collective fight to divide and conquer the one percent and radically redistribute wealth and rebuild our new world on their toxic rubble. I felt disgruntled and cynical—again.

I lost some work I had been depending on. I wasn’t writing as much. I had the kind of month where you go through Things That Make You A Radical Feminist and Things That Strengthen Your Personal Vendetta Against the System. (Yes, we know I didn’t need either of these things—but it happens sometimes). These things happen.

So, we’re back in my kitchen and the floor is shaking because the movement is crescendoing or maybe my blood sugar is low. I’m making an English Muffin in the microwave. And the movement is happening outside, and I feel it in my veins and I realize the quasi-religious, definitely spiritual feeling I get from Occupy—or just a lot of other incredible people who fervently believe in something—is happening right there in my kitchen, and I’m not going to grab my coat and run out the door this time, but next time I’ll be there from the start. Because this movement is so loud that it shouts until the cynical and disillusioned get drunk off of tremors of hope, and leave their cynical and disillusioned kitchens and pour into the streets where The Movement is happening, and The Movement doesn’t have to do with one other person but A Lot of other people and We ALL deeply, deeply need each other and each other’s love and support because we aren’t going to take the bankers’, the corporations’, the governments’, the wars’ the CYNICS’, the patriarchs’ CRAP anymore.

And we need each other right now, and we need to be receptive and communicative and loving, no matter what life has given us—because this is how we will believe so fervently in hope that it occupies our reality.

Because this is fucking happening.

I apologize for the long sentences, the too much emotional information, and the use of the F word. But if you had problems with any of these, you wouldn’t have gotten to the end of the article.

OWS: Phase II

Despite the enormous strength evidenced in the (multiple) police raids two weeks ago, followed by a massive day of actions on November 17th culminating in a jubilant march across the Brooklyn Bridge, it is easy to feel apprehensive, disheartened, and angry about the destruction of Liberty Plaza–and the subsequent resurrection of the far more bland Zuccotti Park–after all, there was a complete and coordinated demolition that included a heart-breaking bibliocide and a staunch reminder that though small in numbers, the top political and financial 1% is protected by hired authoritarian thugs.

Personally, I took a break–from both #OccupyWallStreet and the Internet–and spent the holiday in California with my family. It wasn’t soon after landing that I was on a BART train to go to #OccupyOakland, but–though taking to the streets, blasting homegrown music and chanting “Hella Hella Hella Hella Occupy” made it feel good to be home (and convinced me that despite appearances, #OccupyOakland is alive and well), I couldn’t help feeling eerie about the desolate Oscar Grant Plaza.

New friends told me stories about the way things were, and showed me pictures of taking the port on their smart phones. They had bought gas masks from army supply stores and were fully prepared for clamp downs from the riot police.

I came back to New York, having undeniably mixed feelings about activism, #occupy, and the importance of space. On one hand, thriving protests are happening with CUNY, the UC Campuses and the #OccupyColleges movement. On the other, occupations are being cracked down upon right and left, and occupiers are scattered, scared and forced into new places. On the other hand, these crackdowns are eliminating the pettiness that many occupied occupations were becoming–and putting an end to the frustrations of the bureaucracies of the mini tent cities. On the other hand, leaving my comfortable one mile radius from the heart of Occupy Wall Street showed me that many Americans are still asleep at the wheel, leaving Thanksgiving Dinner with their families to line up at Black Friday for a cheap flat screen TV to silence their families.

On the other hand, we have been waiting for this moment, and waiting for this moment to turn into this movement. There may be fewer and fewer tent cities–but there are more and more Google searches on “corporate greed” and “income inequality,” less and less money stored in the big banks, and more and more Americans who have realized that politics doesn’t have to be an indecipherable game of deficit reduction and inescapable budget cut negotiations by bought-out Congressmen, but is an idea that we can seize for ourselves, translating it for one another into understandable language to re-claim democracy the way that we see it, screaming until our voices are blasted throughout the media and linking arms until the corporate elite is blocked by our people power.

Occupy 2.0 is now the catchphrase of the hour. It will be fueled by more demonstrations and demands, less petty personal bureaucracy. It will be about our struggle as Americans, not our struggles amongst each other as occupiers, and we will use the lessons we learned from Chapter One: Tent Cities to mobilize Chapter Two: Who The Fuck Knows Yet, But Better Than Before to be more united, more inclusive, more directed, and more ultimately powerful than anything we have seen yet.

RT: Journalist Arrests at Occupy Protests

An estimated 26 journalists have been arrested while covering #OccupyWallStreet–and the vast majority of them are with the alternative, non-corporate press. Those of us who haven’t been arrested have most likely been teargassed or caught up in other forms of police brutality, more often than not without credentials or acknowledgement of press credentials to protect ourselves and our work. For more, read Susie Cagle’s article about her arrest at #OccupyOakland here.

Anastasia Churkina of Russia Today (RT) put together a great little video of alternative journalists talking about this problematic situation.

In the words of Amy Goodman, when you handcuff the press you handcuff democracy. Please support independent journalists’ work!

On Rape Culture, Co-Opting, and #OccupyingEverything

Two weeks ago, a young woman at #OccupyWallStreet was raped in her tent. He was out on bail from another rape–and had been accused of assaulting another woman in the park.

Her rape was not the first. Another woman was raped in her tent at #OccupyCleveland–and was accused of being a spy from the government to make #OccupyWallStreet look unsafe. One woman was sexually assaulted and went to the police, only to be promptly dismissed with, “That’s what you get for sleeping away from home.” Needless to say, he did not pursue her assault.

In response to the rape at #OccupyWallStreet–which of course, is the one that is getting any press whatsoever–several women at Occupy Wall Street have united with Code Pink to make a women’s only “safe space” tent–a place where women can sleep without fear or risk of male intrusion and sexual assault.

Although the tent is durable and strong–a militaristic greenish gray, decorated with slogans like “we are strong women” and “strong women occupying wall street,” to me, it is an upsetting symbol of the feminine presence at #OccupyWallStreet. It is a crisis response–something that had to be erected because of the harsh realization that Liberty Plaza, a place that is supposed to be a beautiful symbol of the world that we wish to occupy (a world that is not only free of capitalism and corporate greed, but free of the systems of patriarchy, violence, racism, and discrimination that our current economic system institutionalizes) is not a safe space. Though the well meaning white people in the movement have claimed–and been criticized–for purporting that the movement is free from the race, gender, and class lines that once divided us, it has been made clear that these have not only shaped our pasts, but severely occupy our present.

The reality is, women are raped. This woman was raped, and she wasn’t the first and she will not be the last. The reality is, we are not in a social place where we can occupy a space equally without being preoccupied by concern for our safety.

The tent was erected the week following the rape. Though many people were supportive of the tent, and applauded the women who built it, plenty undermined its significance. In the park, some men grumbled that women claim that sexual assault is rape and overreacted to the situation. On the Internet, many commented articles about the safe space and the sexual assault problem with asinine comments like, “rapists are in the ninety-nine percent too.”

Here is the thing.

#OccupyWallStreet is a movement for economic justice. Unlike an ordinary protest–something where we have a protest permit, signs, and stand with megaphones on a street corner or in a public square for two hours–we have vowed to literally occupy the space until substantial change occurs in our system. There are no permits, as there is no respect for the traditional order that has governed and broken our system. Instead, there is a new system–something that has been built upon consensus, and now–due to the sheer size of the movement–is experiencing its own trials and evolution in political organization. At the root of this new system–no matter what the internal strife in operations–is the desire to model a society based on what we want to live in.

In this society, I don’t want to have to sleep in a tent away from everyone–a glaring symbol of my inequality and vulnerability. I don’t want to be segregated by my gender, because my gender is occupied by a certain set of issues and concerns.

As long as we are imagining idealism, and fearlessly advancing radical ideas, shouldn’t we be discussing a world without sexual violence? It is a necessary temporary fix to have a women’s only “safe space” in Liberty Plaza–but activism, and discussions around rape culture, rape accountability, and sexual violence should continue and be an integral part of a radical liberation movement. Ending the fight against sexual violence with a women’s only safe space effectively bails out rape culture–due to our broken justice system, and our propensity to easy fixes rather than discussions around systemic change, rape and sexual violence is not only ignored, but effectively enabled.

We need the same discussions around systemic roots, accountability, and collective justice surrounding sexual violence that we are building around corporate greed and financial terrorism (not to mention complete and utter disillusionment with our justice system). As long as we are exercising the radical imagination to reclaim our political, economic, and social system from the forces that have constricted and bound us in an eternal cycle of inequality, why claim ourselves a culture without sexual violence and educate and organize around #OccupyRapeCulture?

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